13th March 2013

Carlo Napolitano, head coach of the Italian national team, knows that 2013 can have a major impact on the development of rugby league in Italy, and he intends to do all he can broaden that impact.

“This is an extremely important year for Italy as a rugby league nation and for the development of the game in Italy,” he said. “That’s why it is important to have a strong performance in the world cup so we can get the Italian public interested in playing and push them towards a local club in Italy and hopefully improve participation numbers”.

Napolitano, himself a former Super League player with Salford City Reds and an Italian international, admits that this is one of the most important periods for the development of rugby league in Italy. This year the Azzurri will be playing the opening game of the world cup against Wales on 26 October, and the national team’s hoped for success might just represent a proportional growth spurt in Italian rugby league.

Before participating in the world cup in October Italy will be playing in the European Shield without the high profile names like captain Anthony Minichiello, vice-captain Cameron Ciraldo or the likes of Anthony Laffranchi, Vic Mauro, Aiden Guerra, Craig Gower and Chris Nero. Halfway through the competition, Italy are tied on two-points with Germany and Serbia, trailing leaders Russia.

“The Shield is a great opportunity for the domestic Italian players to represent Italy and gain valuable experience. Also for the coaches this is great because without the European Shield we won’t be able to see them play. The players in the European Shield are the future of the game in Italy. They will be the next captains at their local clubs, and the next coaches”.

That future has distinct goals, according to Napolitano: “To increase the number of players, coaches, teams and divisions participating in rugby league in Italy.”

But this brings Napolitano full circle back to his original point: that world cup success will be the greatest development aid at FIRL’s fingertips. “We must have a really good performance at the world cup; we’re not there just to make up the numbers but to win it. It’s a big ask but if we can do it I can only imagine the interest it will generate to the public in Italy… and this is one of the things we as an organisation are passionate about".

Pictured (from left): Italy captain Anthony Minichiello, Napolitano, FIRL vice president Tiziano Franchini.



Rugby League